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February 12, 2019

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Spring Festival fuels surge in online economy

Chinese consumers’ enthusiasm for digital shopping and payments boomed during the weeklong Chinese New Year holiday and Internet companies reported an increasing number of participants in New Year-themed campaigns.

During the first six days of the holiday, 823 million people sent or received virtual red packages through Tencent’s social networking platform WeChat, up 7 percent from a year ago.

Beijing residents sent and received the most virtual red packets, followed by those in Guangzhou and Chongqing.

About 250 million tailor-made WeChat red packets were opened and more than 26,000 companies sent custom-made red packets to employees.

Paper “red packets,” or hongbao in Mandarin, are traditionally given out as a blessing during the holiday.

But China has rapidly embraced a cashless society in which payments are made via smartphone apps, and digital “red packets” have become hugely popular.

E-commerce giant Alibaba said more than 450 million users had participated between January 25 and February 4 in a game offered on its payment platform Alipay in which users can collect five non-monetary “blessings.” That is a 40 percent increase.

Those who collect all five blessings can redeem them for various amounts of money.

Chinese search giant Baidu said its exclusive sponsorship of CCTV’s New Year Gala brought in 20.8 billion digital interactions with Baidu app users on New Year’s Eve as TV viewers continue to embrace digital formats for entertainment. A total of 900 million yuan (US$133 million) worth of cash gifts were given out by Baidu during the gala, which attracted the most users in Shandong, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces.

Year-end gifts and Chinese-style dishes for Chinese New Year meals enticed buyers to spend more on Alibaba’s retail site, Tmall, and growth in lower tier cities is outpaced that of first- and second-tier cities.

And it’s not just tech-savvy millennials embracing e-commerce for New Year shopping — the number of users over 50 was 1.7 times that of last year, Tmall noted.

Sales of pre-cooked or pre-packaged meals ordered online and delivered directly to the home through Tmall climbed more than 16 times from a year ago, and the total transaction amount spent at fresh food market Freshippo also increased 1.8 times in the first three days of the holiday. The most popular pre-cooked food on Freshippo included Alaskan crab, Boston lobster and Dungeness crab.

E-commerce giant also reported robust sales during the holiday.

Sales from February 3 to February 8 rose 42.7 percent year on year.

Smartphones, computers and home appliances were the top three items on in terms of sales value.

Cooking utensils posted the strongest growth at 399 percent year on year, and people favored higher-end products.

Traveling is also a holiday routine for Chinese consumers, and Alipay data shows Shanghai residents spent the most on their overseas trips during the New Year holiday, followed by Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.


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